The Harlan 11- and 12-year-old All-Stars got an impressive pitching performance from Austin Maggard and had a much better showing at the plate as well as they rolled to an 8-2 win over Pulaski County in a losers bracket game in the District 4 Tournament at Perry County Park.
Maggard, affectionately known as "Smiley" to his teammates and coaches, saw limited action on the mound during the regular season and wasn't expected to be one of Harlan's pitchers in all-star play. But he made the decision pay off, retiring the first nine batters he faced en route to a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts.
"We just had him out there in practice Thursday and let him throw some," Harlan coach Tony Charles said. "I watched him pitch two or three games in the regular season, but I never dreamed he'd do this good. He pitched excellent."
Harlan showed no signs of the offensive doldrums that plagued the team throughout the Area 4 Tournament last week. Harlan collected nine hits Friday, including three home runs.
"All three of us coaches went in there Tuesday and threw - I know I threw about as hard as I could and as much junk as I could," Charles said. "We didn't leave there until everybody was hitting the ball.
"I'm proud of them. That's the little Harlan team we've seen all year."
Leadoff hitter Cory Chorak started Harlan's attack, blasting Austin Wilson's second pitch of the game over the left-center field fence to give Harlan a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, Maggard belted a triple into the gap in right-center, and James Bond followed with a long fly ball that bounced off the top of the fence in right for a two-run shot.
Zach Chitwood singled and moved to third on a wild pitch and a passed ball before scoring on Alex Sergent's sacrifice fly to give Harlan a 4-0 lead after one frame.
The lead grew to seven in the third inning. Bond and Chitwood legged out back-to-back infield singles, and two batters later, Sergent drove the ball into the river beyond the left-field fence for a three-run blast.
Maggard cruised through three innings on the mound, striking out five consecutive batters at one point, before running into a little trouble in the fourth. A pair of errors led to an unearned run, and Jacob Gross' two-out single gave Pulaski its first hit of the game. Maggard recovered and fanned Dillon Meece to end the threat.
Chorak doubled to right-center and scored on a pair of wild pitches to give Harlan an 8-1 lead in the fourth.
Pulaski added the game's final run in the top of the fifth as Christian Adams drew a one-out walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Dylan Warren's double to right.
Harlan right fielder Dawson Charles provided the game's defensive highlight with a diving catch of a Jerrod Jordan line drive for the first out in the fifth.
Harlan will play Middlesboro this evening at 6 in a losers bracket contest. Middlesboro fell to Hazard 10-0 in the first game of the tournament on Thursday.
"We'll have to play every day to come out of this (losers bracket)," Charles said. "We'll just play one game at a time - that's all we can do to try to get back up on top and show what kind of team Harlan's got."
Pulaski County 000 110 - 2 2 0
Harlan 403 10x - 8 9 3
Wilson, Gross (4) and Ashley; Maggard and Chitwood. W-Maggard. L-Wilson. HR-Harlan, Chorak, Bond, Sergent.